To start on a bright note, it was a win. True, it was win in which our offense largely struggled against a low-level defense, and a win over a bad football team that we couldn't put away until the 4th quarter, but it was win. We now have two wins, and a winning record. I'm going to continue using the word "win" as much as I can, because it's football season, and we don't get to say that word much.
Quarterbacks - C
Montell Cozart's stat line actually looks pretty respectable. 23/33 for 226 yards with 2 TDs to 1 pick is a solid day at the office. In fact, it's more yards per attempt than we put up in any single game last season. Still, his numbers were very pedestrian until long pass plays to McCay and Avery (neither of which was more than a short, quick pass for Cozart) boosted his numbers. The game plan was to have Cozart complete some easy passes near the line of scrimmage, and he did that, so I think the C is deserved, but it would be tough to go much higher. I'm still waiting to see Cozart use his athleticism to take advantage of the space in front of him when he's having trouble finding an open receiver, but at this point I think that just isn't who he is as a quarterback.
Running Backs - C-
Giving the running backs a bad grade doesn't quite feel right for this one, but neither would giving out a high rating for Mann and Avery's combined 2.7 yards per carry. A combination of predictable playcalling in the run game and poor offensive line play doomed the rushing attack Saturday, which overall averaged just 3.9 ypc despite a 74 yard run by Tony Pierson. Still, I can't think of much I would like to have seen Avery and Mann do differently given how little they had to work with.
Receivers - C+
Tony Pierson gets an A, but other than him, the receivers did what they were supposed to do. Justin McCay had a huge 60 yard TD reception, but all he really had to do was catch the ball after the corner whiffed, and run into open space ahead of him. Jimmay Mundine had a nice game with 6 catches, at least two of which moved the chains for a 3rd or 4th down conversion. Nothing to complain about here, but nothing to write home about, either.
Offensive Line - F
The offense was able to do just enough to put up 24 points and win the game, but the line simply wasn't where it should be. I understand two of the starters in this unit were late scratches, but that doesn't change the level of performance, which was bad. Central Michigan's front seven had been gashed against the run by their previous opponents, yet we were able to get little to no push against them. The line did a serviceable job of redirecting Central Michigan's front four, but blitizes against our passing game were generally effective. This offense simply cannot get better if the line play doesn't improve quickly.
Defensive Line - C
The defensive line didn't show up much in the box score, but they actually did a reasonable job of controlling things up front. Because they did this against directional Michigan, I'll give them a C for doing what they were supposed to do. I think the line will have its share of struggles against Big 12 offensive fronts, but it was nice to see our linebackers able to plug gaps without having to shed a block from a lineman who was able to move up the field.
Linebackers - A-
A big day for the linebacker position! Our LBs were able to account for 9 tackles for loss and three sacks (including Michael Reynolds' beautiful strip sack). The linebackers were generally able to keep plays in front of them, which resulted in very few big gains for the Chippewas. Jake Love was an animal with 4 tackles for loss, and Courtney Arnick saw quite a few snaps and registered the first sack of his career. Ben Heeney had a workmanlike 7 tackles with a forced fumble.
Secondary - C+
Fun fact: Central Michigan averaged exactly the same number of yards per pass attempt (6.84) that Kansas did on Saturday. Ok, maybe "fun" is a stretch, but I thought it was interesting. We didn't give up any explosive gains through the air, but we didn't exactly lock down the passing game, either. This is a bend-but-don't-break type of secondary, and they only bent a little bit on Saturday. Solid effort, but nothing amazing.
Special Teams - C-
Trevor Pardula could be this team's MVP this year (as sad as that is to say). He was able to boot 3 of his 5 kickoffs for touchbacks, and despite a few shorter punts from near midfield, he managed to average over 40 yards per punt, including 2 inside the 20, and of course one trademark 60+ yard Pardula special. Matthew Wyman looked like a Kansas kicker, missing a 35 yard attempt, but did hit a 27 yarder, keeping his field goal percentage at 50% for the year. For the second straight week, we did give up a big return, this time on a kickoff. That's something to really keep an eye on as we enter conference play and go up against Big 12 level athletes in the return game.
Overall - C-
We won a home game against a MAC school by two touchdowns, which at the end of the day is an acceptable result for this team. That said, the offensive struggles were pretty concerning considering the level of opponent. If not for Pierson and McCay's big plays, this could have been ugly. Still, those big plays happened, and they happened because Central Michigan was overmatched, so I guess that's a positive. A straight C doesn't feel right, but neither does dropping them all the way into the D range, so I'm calling this a C-.